Always the rebel in her ultra-conservative family, Quinn Sakata dreams of quitting her dad's real-estate business and restoring the old Mountain Ridge Bed and Breakfast in her hometown of Hope Springs. Except that Quinn's not the only person bidding on it. Worse still, her competitor is her high school crush, Heath Brantley, who is all kinds of ripped, tattooed hotness...
So much for her "nice, conservative boys" rule.
Heath has his own reasons for bidding on Mountain Ridge, and he won't give in without a fight - even to the red-lipped hottie with a sailor's mouth. But when their rivalry shifts into an unexpected zing of chemistry, Heath realizes he's in deep trouble. Because it's inevitable that emotions will get involved, and he needs to keep his eyes on the prize before they both get hurt.
Each book in the Hope Springs series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Second Chance Ranch
Book #2 Crazy for the Competition
Book #3 The Bad Boy's Baby
About the Author
Cindi Madsen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and young adult novels. She sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she'd be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a pretty new pair, especially if they're sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music and dancing and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children.
You can visit Cindi at: www.cindimadsen.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter to get all the up-to-date information on her books.
Follow her on Twitter @cindimadsen.
Read an Excerpt
Crazy for the Competition
A Hope Springs Novel
By Cindi Madsen, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Cindi Madsen
All rights reserved.
Impressing boyfriends' parents wasn't something Quinn Sakata was known for — well, she definitely left an impression, just not the good kind. Her first awkward meet-the-parents moment had been when she was sixteen, after she'd accidentally stranded herself and her boyfriend at the time in the middle of Hope Springs Reservoir and they'd had to call his parents to rescue them. In her defense, there'd been maneuvering around in the tiny boat for kissing purposes, and while she'd known she'd knocked something over, the splash had seemed so inconsequential with his lips against hers. Turns out oars are more important than you'd think.
Then there was the summer after junior year, when Jackson Cooper's mama had come home unexpectedly and found Quinn and him making out on the couch, clothes askew, damning empty beer cans on the table. His mother had asked for her name, but only so she could call her parents, which had resulted in one of many groundings.
Which was why being in a church with her current boyfriend's family meant sweaty palms and second-guessing every movement she made and word she said.
I knew getting involved with the brother of the groom was a bad idea.
It didn't help that her sister, mother, and aunt were all eyeing her, giving her looks that screamed you'd better be on your best behavior as the wedding rehearsal kicked off.
It's like they think I'm some kind of ticking time bomb. Their worried looks only made her nerves bounce that much higher, so she told herself if she did slip to make sure she transitioned to speaking Japanese, so at least the Rutherfords wouldn't understand what she'd said.
Quinn took a deep breath and then slowly let it out. I got this. I make risky acquisitions with my father constantly looking over my shoulder. Impressing my boyfriend's parents is a cakewalk in comparison.
Mmm. I can't wait for the cake tomorrow.
The incessant hammering echoing through the church made it hard to hear the preacher's words as he detailed exactly what would happen tomorrow when her little sister, Maya, and her fiancé, Steven Rutherford, got married. Not that Quinn was paying that close attention. How much prep did walking down an aisle at the speed of nail polish drying take, anyway? Being in the middle of a business deal that had nothing to do with her regular job wasn't helping her concentration, either.
As the mother of the bride, Haha beamed, absorbing a moment she'd obviously waited for all her life — of course her mother made sure to mention to Quinn that as the eldest, she always thought she'd marry first. No thanks on that. Chichi stood next to Haha, also beaming, and backing her up whenever she needed help with the wedding prep — Quinn had always admired the team her parents made.
Quinn peeked inside her purse at her phone, silently begging it to ring. The town committee had promised a decision by five, and it was a quarter till. She'd get a dirty look from Haha for answering, but there was no way she'd miss it. Chichi would assume it was a business call, like 90 percent of her calls were, and let it go. This was business, but it was also personal, and what she hoped to one day turn into professional. If the deal did go through, Chichi would no doubt be disappointed in her decision to move another way, but she couldn't dwell on that right now.
"Quinn-chan, come stand off to this side with Maya-chan," Haha said, directing her to the left of the altar, where the hammering noise only grew louder — apparently there were a few last-minute touch-ups going on to make sure everything was ready for tomorrow's ceremony.
Maya bumped her hip into Quinn's. "Just another hour and it'll be over. And then tomorrow" — her face lit up and her voice pitched higher — "I'll be married!"
Before Quinn could give her sister a hug like she'd planned, Haha grabbed her shoulders and twisted her to stand sideways. "Turn this way. No slouching. And would a smile kill you?"
"Maybe," Quinn said. "Is that a chance you really want to take?"
Oops. Those are the inside thoughts today, remember?
Luckily Haha didn't bother with a response — she was used to the sarcasm. With the Rutherfords lined up on the other side, they probably hadn't heard, either, so no harm done.
Haha continued rearranging everyone in place, making the groomsmen switch order when she didn't like the height differences. "Perfectionist" was an understatement, not to mention how determined she was to show the Rutherfords that a small-town celebration could be just as extravagant as one in the city. There were caterers driving in from two towns over, and the decorators had driven up from Salt Lake to deck out the town square. The entire reason Maya had wanted to be married in Hope Springs instead of Cheyenne, where all of their family had relocated for the time being, was the small-town charm. Despite their many moves through the years, the sisters both considered it their real home — it was where they had their best memories.
But the Sakatas were big on impressions, especially when clients were invited and they were trying to one-up the Joneses. Or Rutherfords, as it were.
Quinn had asked Maya if she wanted all the fuss, and while she could tell her sister didn't, Maya asked her to let it go. So for her sake, she'd be compliant. She reached over and squeezed her sister's hand. "It'll be like in The Little Mermaid, when the whole kingdom's there to see."
Maya laughed. "My dress is sparkly."
"We just need to get you a gold tiara real quick. Do you think Chichi would hold a trident?"
"And sprout a tail?"
The image made them erupt into the kind of silent laughter where you hold in the sound but your entire body convulses with it.
When they'd played The Little Mermaid growing up, Maya was always Ariel and Quinn was Ursula. It was more fun. Until that whole getting-rammed-through-with-a-sharp-pole-and-dying-an-electric-death thing. The characters they'd gravitated toward pretty much summed up their polar opposite personalities.
All growing up, Quinn heard things like, "Why can't you be more like your sister?" and "Look at Maya. She's the younger one, and she's the better example." From her parents, teachers. Other family members. Pretty much everyone except their maternal grandmother, Sobo Machi, who was one of the few people who'd actually understood Quinn.
While that might lead some to resent their sibling, Quinn had never felt that way about Maya. She wanted to protect her sister's shiny, hopeful outlook of the world and make sure all her optimistic dreams came true. Maya's one rebellion through the years was to sneak into Quinn's room after Haha and Chichi were asleep. They'd whisper and giggle and tell stories long into the night, and Quinn often had to carry Maya back to her room after she fell asleep so they wouldn't get caught. So despite their different personalities, they'd always been close, and Quinn would do most anything to make her sister happy.
"It's going to be perfect," she whispered to Maya, giving her hand another squeeze.
When she glanced up, Mrs. Rutherford quickly looked away, as if she'd been studying her. It hadn't been easy to hold back snarky comments when the woman remarked on the quaintness of the town in that condescending, grating way people did when they tried to make insults sound like compliments.
Hope Springs was Quinn's town, even if she didn't currently live here. Although if this deal she was waiting on went through, she'd change that soon. Please, please, please let it go through.
Grayson flashed her a smile from the Rutherford side. They'd started dating because his brother had been dating her sister, and they were always together anyway, so it made sense. Haha and Chichi approved, which always made it easier, if a little less fun, and he fit in with her new plan to date boys who wouldn't stomp all over her heart for sport. She was trying to be more mature, as her father constantly pointed out she needed to be.
Maturity blows. And it's boring.
The truth was she missed the excitement of dating someone ... not so calm and predictable. Not to mention she always felt like she fell a little short of who Grayson wanted her to be.
What's wrong with me? He's a successful man who treats me well. He ... talks about his stocks a lot.
But that was easy enough to tune out. When she'd dared to suggest to Maya that he might not be the guy for her, her sister had freaked out and made her promise not to break up with him before the wedding. Which was good, she supposed. It gave her a couple more days to see how he interacted with his family and hers and decide if it was time to end it or take things to the next level. Plus, having him in Hope Springs would give her the chance to introduce him to Sadie, and her best friend would help her figure out her next step.
A calm washed over her at the thought. She'd been so antsy on this trip. It was hard to concentrate when her dream hung in the balance, so close she could taste it.
The hammering continued, the noise pounding behind Quinn's temples. She was tempted to march over and yell, What are you doing back there? Building an ark? Can you maybe just shut up for fifteen minutes so we can get through this and go home?
Instead she tried to concentrate as the preacher went over the final details.
Yeah, yeah, let's wrap it up. We walk down the aisle, and then they exchange vows. People cry. Then they go eat and dance in the town square. It's not exactly rehearsal-worthy.
Quinn peeked at the screen of her phone again and then made sure the sound was on. It's all going to work out. It's got to. First, she'd use the money she'd scrimped and saved to secure the run-down Mountain Ridge Bed and Breakfast she'd fallen in love with as a child, then she'd turn it into a beautiful property where she could finally be free of her father as a boss and a job that she was good at but didn't love. Free from all feelings of obligation, and no dealing with implications that she'd only gotten where she was because of who her father was. She couldn't wait to have something that was 100 percent hers.
Just call already. I've jumped through all your hoops, and now I'm ready to turn my dream into a reality.
Haha cleared her throat, and Quinn glanced up. Oops, everyone else had moved. Quinn's heels tapped a quick rhythm against the hardwood floor as she hastened toward the end of the aisle to do another trial run, just in case someone had forgotten how to walk in the last ten minutes.
Quinn ended up next to Mrs. Rutherford, and the woman's eyes went to Quinn's necklace. More accurately, the diamond hanging from it. Grayson had gifted it to her a few months ago — it'd nearly sent her running because he was obviously more serious about her than she was about him. But then she'd remembered being serious about relationships was something she was looking for. In theory.
Guilt swirled through her gut, but she told herself that she did care about him. She'd even let him know she wasn't ready to get too serious yet, so it wasn't like she was leading him on.
"My son has good taste," Mrs. Rutherford said.
Quinn smiled. "Yes, he does. He's a very bright boy." Were those words actually coming out of her mouth? She didn't say things like "bright boy." But she didn't think she should mention that the first thing she'd noticed when Maya introduced them was how nicely he filled out a suit — especially from the back. So she nodded like the good little girl her family expected her to be.
And Mrs. Rutherford actually smiled what appeared to be a perfectly nice, genuine smile.
Here I am, impressing my boyfriend's mother. Go me.
If her phone could just ring right now and she could excuse herself before she said or did anything wrong, that'd be great. Or maybe the phone call would screw it up, but not knowing if she'd gotten the property or not was making her crazier with every minute closer it got to five.
The hammering stopped, the quiet suddenly loud in its absence. Then the embodiment of every fantasy she'd ever had — every bad boy she'd ever dated or lusted after rolled into one — stepped out from behind the podium, hammer in hand, a light sheen of sweat on his forehead.
His arms were ripped and tattooed, his ears pierced, and his jeans and T-shirt snug. Her knees trembled, her mouth went dry, and her heart beat faster than it had since she'd had that regrettable treadmill-tripping incident at the gym a few months ago — she'd given up exercise for her health after that. The guy lifted the bottom of his shirt and wiped at his face, exposing glorious abs covered in more tattoos.
"Holy shitballs," Quinn said, and although she'd meant for it to be a whisper, it more burst out of her and echoed around the room, filling every corner of the chapel, drifting across the preacher, and bouncing right back to the entire wedding party.
Maya fought back a smile but hid it with her fake flower bouquet prop, Haha shot her a death glare, and Chichi's mouth formed a line so tight it looked like he'd lost it altogether. As for the groom's side?
It was dropped jaws, hands thrown over hearts, and a general mix of shock and awe that she'd enjoy under other circumstances but didn't strike her as particularly amusing now, especially combined with the pale pallor of the new town preacher.
At least Grayson was more caught in a permanent flinch than a disapproving scowl.
Well, hell. Did she mention she wasn't particularly good at first impressions?
* * *
Heath fought back a laugh as he glanced at the woman who'd just sworn in the chapel. The bride-tobe — who he assumed was her sister — looked amused, but everyone else wore horrified expressions. A few of them inched away as if lighting might strike her and get them in the process.
At first glance he'd noticed she was pretty, but as he took in her long dark hair and exotic Asian features, the adorable blush on her cheeks, and the deep red lips, he thought pretty didn't quite cut it. In fact, he was thinking he'd like to know more about the hottie with a sailor's mouth.
She was probably only in town for the wedding, though — he definitely would've noticed her earlier if she lived here. There was no place to hide in Hope Springs. Oh, sure, you could try to hide out at home, but the busybodies in town wouldn't allow it for long.
Speaking of townspeople ... Heath glanced at the time. Nearly five. He'd picked up odd jobs here and there since he'd gotten back into town, but within a few minutes, he should be finding out if he was going to win the property he was eager to get busy fixing up. Then he could focus on building the dream he and his brother had talked about since they were old enough to think about the future.
The town committee moves about as slow as a snake on a cold day. Not that they were cold-blooded. Well, not all of them, although it was a possibility with a few of the older ladies. The thought of other people holding his future in his hands made a lump form in his gut.
If only he hadn't left such a bad impression back in high school. But he couldn't do anything about that now. Just keep proving he'd changed and hope for the best.
The hottie glanced back toward the wedding party. She carefully schooled her features, but the blush remained. "Sorry about that. I just ... remembered that I need to make a call. For work. Please excuse me." She rushed out of the chapel, moving surprisingly fast considering the super-tall heels on her feet.
Heath dropped his hammer in his toolbox and gave the floorboards and formerly wobbly bench another test. "Did you need anything else?" he asked, addressing Preacher Hadfield.
"No. Thanks for taking care of it on such short notice. I meant to get it fixed weeks ago."
Heath took up his toolbox, ignoring the disapproving looks he got from the wedding party — he didn't even have to swear in church to earn them. It was another thing that had him worried when it came down to getting the town committee to accept his proposal. Add being from the wrong side of the tracks and having the wrong dad, and sometimes he thought he was stupid for even dreaming Mountain Ridge could be his.
Excerpted from Crazy for the Competition by Cindi Madsen, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2015 Cindi Madsen. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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